City Desk

Kiva Microfinance Lending Comes to D.C.

Uruguayan immigrant Enrique Cantua has a maintenance company in the D.C. area and a contract to remove snow this winter in Fairfax County. But he needs a $10,000 loan for safety equipment.

Enter Kiva. Starting today, the microfinance site beloved by international development majors is available to D.C. businesses, and Cantua is one of its first clients. Through the site, users can contribute a minimum of $25 to Cantua's loans, with the expectation the money will be paid back interest.

"You start getting repaid right away and the typical repayment rate is around 98 percent," says Matt Flannery, one of Kiva's co-founders. Kiva's other initial borrowers in the D.C. area are a store in Falls Church and a pro bono law firm.

Other businesses are being considered for Kiva loans by the Latino Economic Development Center, Kiva's local partner in the city.   The site also received help from Capital One Bank, which gave Kiva a $100,000 grant for set-up costs in Washington and is providing up to $150,000 in matching money for loans.

Flannery isn't concerned that other sites like Kickstarter have tapped out the Internet public on crowdfunding schemes. "We're at the very small tip of a very big iceberg," he says.

Money photo by Shutterstock.

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